Tag Archives: Chevrolet

Review – 2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD: The CUV Sporting the Most Flair

Kia isn’t known for its style or design. Kia’s biggest claim to fame is its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Well, that was until recently. When Kia hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, suddenly they had style and dare I say, flair.

This new third generation Sportage is so vastly different in almost every way from its predecessors, that it’s amazing that they sport the same name.

The exterior of the new Sportage looks like it fell out of the awesome tree and hit every branch on its way down. Beginning in the front, Sportage sports Kia’s new signature grill, flanked by swept back headlights. The headlights on upper trim models (like this EX) each have a strip of LED eye liner. Chrome trim above the fog lights finishes off the front end.

The sides have sculpting near the bottom of the doors while a character line runs beneath the window sills into the rear tail lights. Door handles and window sills are trimmed in chrome and the roof rails are covered in a with a satin metal-like finish. The side mirrors also feature LED repeaters, which is a nice touch in this class.

Around back the rear is very stylized, with what can only be described as a bubble butt. The rear view almost looks like an alien scowling at you, especially at night. The rear tail lights feature LED lighting.

With the rear window being somewhat small and the large C-pillars being kind of large, it makes for limited rearward visibility. It is clear that style played a larger role than function when it came to the exterior design – the exterior is probably the best looking exterior of any compact CUV on the market currently.

The interior is also stylized, though not to the extent the exterior is. The dash features two different finishes, one smooth and one textured, both are hard and have a low sheen to them.

The center console has a upward slant to it and it rises to meet the dashboard. The climate controls have a shiny piano black finish to them, but it is not distracting. I could imagine this plastic getting scratched easily over time though.

Both front seats were all day comfortable, with terrific seat heaters. Though only the front drivers seat features a cooling function. The front passenger will have to settle for only heat.

As I mentioned on the exterior, visibility is somewhat limited by the rear design. The C-pillars are quite large and the back glass is quite small. Further enhancing the problem are the somewhat large A-pillars in the front. While not as large as some of the competition, they are still large enough to cause some visibility issues. As with the current trend, the belt line on the Sportage is high, so resting your elbow on the window sill while driving is somewhat uncomfortable. The design also cuts into rear seat headroom. Taller passengers will need to sit up front.

Like the exterior, I found the interior to be a huge win. Button placement was all within arms reach and everything was clearly labeled. My only major gripe would be the style over function of some of the design characteristics.

Currently the new Sportage features one engine  2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that pumps out 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet to either the front or all four wheels. The power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission that has manual shift capabilities. The Sportage EX I was in came equipped with all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential. The current powertrain combined with all-wheel drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, and I saw an average of 19 mpg in mixed suburban driving.

As with the new Sorento, I found the ride in the Sportage to be surprisingly stiff. While I can appreciate a stiff ride, over bumpy roads the suspension can feel jittery at times. Also, the steering is light when at parking lots speeds but firms up a little too much once underway.

While I had the Sportage, Minneapolis was whacked with the largest blizzard we have had in over ten years. I drove the Sportage out into the blizzard and must say I was highly impressed. I did not get stuck once. With over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, I drove this Sportage through worse road conditions than almost any owner will ever drive through. The 18″ wheels with Hankook tires where very impressive and the stability control kept everything in line. I did lock the all-wheel drive a few times, though ground clearance did help as well. I am sure the cold and blizzard driving affected my gas mileage.

The EX AWD is currently the top trim model of the Sportage model. This Sportage featured both the Navigation/Premium Audio package as well as the Premium Package with Leather. Combined with these options and destination, the total price on this Sportage was $29,990.

The Sportage lands in a crowded market. The new Chevrolet Equinox is very competitive, and the Honda CR-V along with the Toyota RAV4 are both segment leaders. So is the new little Sportage finally ready to sell on more than price? The answer is absolutely. With more style, or flair if you will, than nearly all the competition, this Kia is ready to finally sell on design and features rather than a warranty and low price.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

Review – 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES: The Shark Of Hatchbacks

When I told my friends that I was reviewing a Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES, many responded with, “wait, Mitsubishi is still in business?” See that right there that is a problem. No car company wants to have that question asked by consumers.

The Lancer is Mitsubishi’s foray into the compact car segment. The question is, is it competitive or is there a reason many consumers don’t know Mitsubishi still sells cars in the United States?

The front of the Lancer Sportback ES features Mitsubishi’s current design language, which has a sharp and forward slanting grille. It looks as if the front clip is about to eat you. My girlfriend thinks it looks like a shark and I can see that resemblance. The sides have a strong crease that run from the front fenders to the rear fenders and there is some slight sculpting is down by the rocker panels. The rear has a very steep slope to the glass and this cuts into the cargo room slightly. An integrated rear spoiler extends to the rear roofline and gives the rear glass a little cover during rain and snow storms. The optional 15″ alloy wheels look decent but have large tires that fill out the wheel wheels. Side repeaters for the turn signals are a nice touch in this class. Overall, I like the exterior for its uniqueness. It doesn’t look like any other compact car on the road.

The interior is a little more of a let down. A few years ago this interior would have been standard fare, but now the competition has upped its game. The plastic on the dash is all hard and somewhat cheap looking. The switches and knobs all feel fine, and the HVAC controls have a nice solid click to them on each interval. The cloth seats do feature a unique pattern, though the bottom bolsters are farther apart then I would like.

The radio display is red and inset into the dash slightly. This looks fine, but in sunlight the entire display gets washed out. The auxiliary inputs use red and white pigtails instead of the normal auxiliary input jack. That is somewhat annoying if you do not have the right cables. Once you have the correct cables it gets more confusing, you must hold the MP3/CD button on the radio for 2+ seconds to switch to the auxiliary input. I’m creative, but even I had to go to the owners manual to figure that one out.

The steering wheel has a voice command button along with hang up and answer buttons for the Bluetooth. The only issue is, this particular Sportback didn’t have Bluetooth. It seems all Sportbacks are pre-wired for Bluetooth and have the buttons. So, if you do not select the option for it, you will be stuck looking at the buttons every time you drive the car. Just a reminder that you kind of skimped on the options. Not exactly sure why they are there but hey, they are.

I wanted to comment on the seating position; it was more rally car than compact car. With an adjustment for up/down, forward/back/and a back adjustment, it was easy to find a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel did tilt but does not telescope.

The engine is a 2.0-liter MIVEC inline 4-cylinder that pumps out 148 horsepower and 145 pound feet to the front wheels. The power is put down through either a five speed manual or Sportronic CVT automatic. The Sportback I had featured the Sportronic CVT, which I will say wasn’t as bad as I initially expected it to be. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of CVTs due to their rubber band nature, but this one seemed to mimic a six-speed automatic fairly well. Only when really pushing the engine did it start to have a rubber band feel. The Sportback was actually fun to drive, when going around a corner it felt more like a rally car than a typical compact car. While the two higher trim levels are definitely sportier, this base Sportback was able to throw a smirk or two on my face.

Aside from the interior material quality and radio display, I do have one major gripe. The price of the Sportback ES seems reasonable, until you realize what you can now get for that same kind of money. Starting at $17,775 with a manual transmission and no options, this is not exactly a cheap compact car. The model I was in had the CVT and alloy wheel options bringing the total to $18,955. The EPA mileage ratings are 25/32 mpg, while I averaged 23.5 mpg in the city and 27.6 on the highway. Not exactly class leading on the gas mileage either.

So what did we end up with? A compact hatchback that has some sharp styling and sport driving characteristics. That sounds like a somewhat unique combination. With vehicles like this, it really isn’t a surprise to me that my friends didn’t know Mitsubishi was still around. This is a unique and almost niche vehicle. Your top priorities can’t be fuel economy or interior material quality. It also isn’t the best value based solely on price, especially when compared to a Mazda3, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, or a myriad of other compact car options. No, to buy this car means you want to be different and stand out from the crowd. With a fun to drive factor that is surprising and a fair bit of utility, this shark is in crowded waters but deserves a fair shake if you want to stand out from the compact car crowd.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi

Chevrolet Lumina MPV Fail

Hey remember the dustbuster vans? Whether they have aged gracefully or not is debatable, but this is one classy example in what can only be described as ‘mint condition.’ What with upgrades such as a window air conditioner for those extra hot days, and the sweet Ford Mustang wheels, this Chevrolet Lumina MPV is ready to hit the road. Oh, and when you are traveling across the U.S. with the window air conditioner blasting and feel the need to talk with the trucker ahead, the side mounted CB radio antenna will come in handy. Here’s to hoping this family has a terrific family road trip this holiday season.

Source- Twitter

Review – 2011 Kia Sorento EX: The Power To Surprise

Kia’s tagline is “The Power To Surprise,” and as of late they have truly been surprising. Revamping an entire vehicle line-upand adding new models all within a very short period of time is no small feat. First there was the new Soul followed by the new Forte, and now they have completely revamped the Sorento.

If you do not remember the last generation Sorento, no one will fault you. It was nothing special, just another body on frame SUV that got lost in the crowd selling on price, not features. Some compared its looks to the first generation Lexus RX300, which some would view as a compliment.

The front of the Sorento features Kia’s new signature grille, flanked by swept-back headlights. In some ways the headlights almost look related to the Acura TL. The honeycomb grille is matched by honeycomb surrounds for the fog lights, which which are placed in the bumper. The way light from the fog lights hits the ground makes them almost act more like driving lights then actual fog lights.

The sides of the Sorento have two sculpting points – one runs the length of the window sills until it flows into the C-pillar. The second sculpting point is low near the bottom of the doors. This brings in the sides to give the Sorento a less slab sided appearance.

The wheels on this particular Sorento were 18-inch alloys which fit nicely within the wheel wells. The side mirrors had LED repeaters while the tail lights continued with the honeycomb look from the front grille. While the front has more design character then the rear, I would say overall the exterior is a huge win.

Like the exterior, the interior is mostly a win. The new corporate steering wheel has buttons for most major functions, and they are strategically placed so your hands do not leave the wheel as often. The dashboard is made of hard plastic, but it looks decent. The interior lighting is ret and the gauges are white and red, which make them very easy on the eyes while driving at night.

The seats were all day comfortable, though the side bolsters on the front seat backs were a bit hard. The rear seat can easily accommodate three people, with a nearly a flat floor for your feet. The rear seats do fold down 60/40, but not completely flat due to the design of the rear seat bottoms.

If I had one major gripe about the interior, it would be the navigation system. The system itself works terrific and the street names are very legible with no jagged fonts. However, the system warning each and every time you turn on the car takes forever to allow you to hit accept and move past the warning screen. I am talking a ridiculously long time. There is standard iPod integration, along with Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the front seat heaters – they worked quite well, although they aren’t the fastest to heat up. Once on, they performed on par with what a Minnesotan would expect.

The only interior trim piece I could really find an issue with was the main center piece of plastic covering the front of the steering wheel. The top cut line was uneven and somewhat jagged. While disappointing, overall I was impressed with the build quality inside the cabin. While hard plastics are used in many places, all touch points such as arm rests and other areas were covered in a leatherette-like material. The interior is, without question, very class competitive.

The Sorento I was in had the base 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 175 horsepower and 169 pound feet to the front wheels. A V-6 and all-wheel drive is optional. The power is put down through a one-choice six-speed automatic with a manual shifting gate to the left. Off the line the Sorento has adequate power, but once up to speed you will need to plan your passes carefully. Highway passing is not a point and shoot decision. I also noticed that the transmission often got confused as to what it should do. When slowing to a stop from about 30 MPH the transmission would sometimes not know when to shift and suddenly make a large clunk as it shifted into a lower gear. It felt like a programming issue, though it could be an issue with this particular Sorento.

I wonder if Kia plans to put the four-cylinder from the new Optima, which puts out 200 hp and 186 lb-ft , into the Sorento as the base engine in the future. The slight bump in power would possibly help the situation with passing power on the highway. The new 2.0-liter turbo that is coming in the Optima would also be a good engine option, since it has more horsepower and torque then the optional V6.

Driving the Sorento was enjoyable for the most part. I averaged 18.8 mpg in the city and 25.2 mpg on the highway. A bit lower then the 21/29 EPA rating. The suspension is a little firm though that didn’t bother me. With that firm suspension came quite a bit of noise over rough surfaces. On the highway more road noise made its way into the cabin then expected, though it was acceptable, just not class leading.

The Sorento I was in was a EX with both the limited package and premium package 1. With a total of $3,750 in options the sticker price on this Sorento EX was $29,340 after destination. That puts it right in the heart of the CUV segment.

With competitors like the new Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Ford Edge and many others, the Sorento can’t be just good enough, it has to be great. There is no question that Kia has good design direction both inside and out. The four-cylinder powertrain is adequate, but I’d probably opt for the V-6. The bottom line, if you are in the market for a CUV to haul the family around, you would be making a large mistake if you didn’t have the Sorento on your list. Turns out Kia’s marketing slogan does work – with its new styling language, the new Sorento really does have the power to surprise.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 35: “Some Humor, Some Serious, Some Green and Some Kia!”

Episode 35 starts with introducing this weeks guest Craig Cole also known as the skinny one on the RoundAbout Show. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Kia Sorrento EX I was in this past week along with the 2011 Honda Odyssey that just landed in Craig’s driveway.

We then move along into the major news of the week segment. This week included:

  • EPA releases fuel economy ratings for the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt
  • Electricity providers excited and nervous about possibilities of electric cars (Link)
  • Flying cars? Yes! (Link & Link)
  • GPS and iPhone radar detectors? (Link)
  • Ten worst new cars (Link)
  • Lil Pete and Lil Kenny (Link)

Next came our main topic which was discussing General Motors playings matchmaker for current Saturn and Pontiac owners. (Link)

Last we plug our respective blogs, RoundAbout Show,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Video: Classic Debate – Duramax Vs. Power Stroke

In a debate as old as time, we take a moment to discuss the new Duramax and Power Stroke diesel engines in the new Ford and GM heavy duty pickup trucks. This classic debate ignites the passion in many enthusiasts.

On the left we have the new Duramax hooked to the Allison transmission. Pumping out 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft to the rear or all four wheels, this engine is by no means a slouch. Slamming the go pedal at 30 mph will throw the traction control into a frenzy.

On the right we have the new Power Stroke which is all new and was developed in house by Ford. Pumping out 400 horsepower and 800 lb-ft to the rear or all four wheels, this engine is on paper, king of the hill. It is worth noting this engine has already received a factory software flash to upgrade the power to exceed the new Duramax power ratings.

So take a moment watch the video below and make your call, which side are you on?

Side note- I did this video clip in one take. I know it is lb-ft not ft-lb when referring to torque. I also know it is diesel not gas. I slipped on those two occasions and did not have time to do another take. Just wanted to mention those two mistakes before the war started in the comments.

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 34: “White Diamond Episode”

Loyal fans, we are back! Sorry for the delay, my work life has been crazy and Justin has school, between the two scheduling has been tough. Episode 34 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears. Moving on we talk a little about the Fireball Run which I was in since the last recording. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 GMC DenaliHD I was in for the past week.

We then proceed to the clip of the week segment.  This week we feature a new ad campaign by Chevrolet called Max and Al. (Link)

We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • Outrage over the Chevrolet Volt’s drivetrain (Link)
  • Chevrolet Volt not PZEV (Link)
  • Is the Chevrolet Cruze really priced out of competition? (Link)
  • Disneyland and cars? Definitely! (Link)

Next came our main topic which was discussing Fiat/Chryslers onslaught of new product.

Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Buick Dropped The Ball And Created #GSFail

I wanted to write this editorial on Thursday night, but decided it was better to wait a few days and see how the dust settled. How would the fans react? Would my emotions on the topic change once I calmed down? The answer is no.

Buick announced the production version of the Regal GS in Miami, Florida last Thursday. It wasn’t without a few surprises. The biggest surprise of which was a lack of all-wheel drive. Most people assumed the 2.8 liter turbo V-6 from the Opel Insignia OPC would not make the trek across the Atlantic. As for the all-wheel drive, that is a different story.

Lets not forget about power output. The 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder will put out 255 horsepower and 295 pound feet to the front wheels (no, that was not a typo). This engine has also done duty in the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, HHR SS,  Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline. For all of these models you could purchase a $650 factory upgrade at the dealership that would kick things up a notch, pushing out 290 hp and 340 lb-ft, all while keeping your factory warranty. The engine has the potential.

The Regal GS will feature GM’s terrific HiPerStrut front suspension system, which in theory, should curve most of the torque steer which this beast is sure to feature.

So where are the two main problems? Well, it’s a combination of power and drivetrain. The engineers said they did not need all-wheel drive for the Regal GS. Their reasoning was the added weight wasn’t necessary and the power output did not require it. Wait, the power output did not need it? Hey, we stumbled onto the second problem!

It was initially thought that Buick wanted the Regal GS to take on the likes of the BMW 335i and the Audi S4, like the Opel Insignia OPC does in Europe. These power numbers do not put it even close to competing with those vehicles. Zero to sixty is quoted as “under seven seconds.” Are you joking? That’s slower then the Acura TSX V-6. Did I mention the new Hyundai Sonata Turbo has more horsepower and posts better fuel economy? That isn’t even a “sports car.” Don’t even think about getting close to a BMW 335i or Audi S4 in race away from that stop light.

Also high on the disappointment list is the removal of the terrific Recaro seats. The Opel Insignia OPC features them, as did the Regal GS Concept. I sat in them at the Detroit Auto Show last year – those were comfy seats.

Fans on Buick’s Facebook fan page were outraged. Many have claimed how this car just got knocked off their list. I was told by someone that three people in Detroit that were waiting for this car called the dealership and are no longer interested. My own cousin who has a 2002 Audi A6 2.7t was waiting for this car – I had convinced him this might be the replacement. Now? Not so much.

The Twitter community was just as outraged. The hashtag #GSFail was created quite quickly and really spread fast. Enthusiasts across the nation shared their disappointment.

I still remember standing three feet away from Bob Lutz at the Detroit Auto Show last year. I overheard him talking about the Regal GS to a reporter – he was smiling ear to ear, proud of what Buick was transforming into. What I wouldn’t give to hear Bob Lutz’s candid thoughts on how this car turned out.

My garage has a poster in it of the Regal GS concept car from last years auto show season. The car is something I was looking forward to.

The fact that I have not driven the car is not lost on me. Without a question, the car looks the part. In fact, it probably is still fun to drive, but that isn’t the point. The point is the car is not what was expected from the GS. It has been slightly watered down in all the wrong places, and the enthusiasts know it. The GS model is meant to be niche, meaning it is meant for enthusiasts.

Buick had the opportunity to really make a move here. This car could have stood for something, having the potential to truly ignite enthusiasts and maybe even convert a few past Pontiac owners. Now, it is another watered down product we are getting from Europe. In a discussion this weekend with Nick Saporito, I think he said it best: “the car is “good enough” with excuses.”

Sound off in the comments and we are also running a poll over at Motor Authority about whether the Regal GS meets your expectations. Check it out and vote here.

Off Road Ford Mustang Fail?

We’ve seen the Chevrolet Corvette fail last April, and that was a sight to behold. We now bring you this Ford Mustang fail. My friend Neal, that lives in Iowa spotted this hot piece of metal sitting outside where else, a Sportsman’s Warehouse in Ankeny, IA. The store apparently sells everything you would need for hunting and other outdoor activities (wonder if there is a gun rack in the trunk). Clearly this Mustang has custom bumpers along with a large lift kit. The hood might be from a Boss, while the rear mud flaps are clearly meant for a F350 dually. The straight pipes coming out the back I am sure pass emissions. One has to wonder, do they take this thing mudding or in the fields? Regardless, if you happen to be near Des Moines, IA anytime soon, keep your eyes peeled for this hot piece of Mustang. The owner may even let you check its undercarriage.

Fireball Run – Nelson Takes Me On The Autocross

Nelson asked if I wanted to ride along for a “fun run” on the autocross course. I said sure why not. I was moving all around because of the course but the video’s still somewhat entertaining.